If you don’t mind my quoting a children’s book in the midst of such an otherwise serious subject: “I wasn’t going to eat it. I was just going to taste it.” These are the words of Winnie-the-Pooh, the perennially vexed creation of A.A. Milne about his favorite temptation, honey. Of course we know Pooh Bear was going to eat the honey. But caught on the line between temptation and indulgence, the stuffed children’s toy offers a plausible interpretation of events. He minimized his sin. And we do the same.
The second of Satan’s devices to draw us into sin is to make our transgressions look like good deeds. As children of God who long to please Him, this deception can cause us to think the evil choices we make are actually the will of God. It is the wickedest sort of rationalization – ascribing the acts of the enemy to the words of our Lord. Rationalization is a common human skill. Many of us excel at it. True artistic or academic giftedness are hard to come by. But our ability to explain away our bad decisions is never in short supply.
The minivan we can’t afford because it offers us safety and convenience. The unhealthy romantic relationship we fall into because it help us fit in with our peers. The career choice that makes us miserable because the pay is good and it pleases our parents.
The human mind will never exhaust its ability to rationalize what the human heart knows is wrong.
It may seem unnecessary, obvious – stating that Satan fishes with a hook. This is the tool of the trade. This is the angler’s approach. But the reason for this declaration will become clear as you read on. Thomas Brooks wants us to know that the devil’s technique of choice belies his character.
In the previous post about Chapter 1 we looked at the first two of Thomas Brooks’ “proofs” – his introductory thoughts that will drive the content of the rest of this book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. Now we come to the third proof, which features the shortest explanation of the three. Brooks’ quotation of Revelation 2:24 is instructive. We must explore this entire passage to better understand his reasons for borrowing the words of Christ given to the apostle John on the island of Patmos late in the first century.
There are a lot of things a runner has to watch out for on the road. After 18 years of running, I can tell you I’ve met my fair share of them. Take your eyes off the road, and you might trip over a rock or piece of trash. Stray from the path, and your foot can wind up in a hole or caught on a downed tree limb. And don’t think that guy turning right at the intersection is going to see you before he goes. He won’t. One of the first safety rules I learned about road running: Always run against the flow of traffic. Simply put, run on the left side. That way, oncoming cars can see you more easily. But more importantly, you don’t have your back to them like you would on the right side. Don’t think that would matter so much? Imagine running on the right shoulder. Your earbuds are in. You’re focused on knocking out the next mile. And the driver behind you takes his eyes off the road for just a second to look at a text message on his phone. That’s all it takes. One second. And your running days are over.
To read Precious Remedies is to assent that Satan is real, to be satisfied in the lack of apology for this stance, and to strive to learn the timeless tools the author has given us to defeat him.
Thomas Brooks liked to write an “epistle dedicatory” in his books. What are they exactly? We use the one in Precious Remedies as an example.